Duterte cuts short Moscow trip, martial law declared in Mindanao



MANILA, May 24 (APD) – Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte opted to return home to the Philippines after undetermined number of armed men attacked government and faith-based facilities in Marawi City mid-Tuesday afternoon.

Catholic Bishop Edwin dela Pena, in an interview with CBCP News said he received a phone call from Marawi City at 7:30 P.M. Tuesday using the mobile phone of Fr. Chito Suganob, Prelature of Marawi’s vicar general.

“The man on the phone identified himself as one of the leaders of the armed group who confirmed holding hostage the vicar general, the prelature’s secretary-treasurer, two students and two women leading the novena prayers for Mary Help of Christians.” Bishop Dela Pena said.

The man told him to call on the military to stop pursuing their group otherwise they would harm the hostages.

“I had difficulty of getting in touch with the Marawi City-based military officials so I called Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz who called AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Major General Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. and relayed the message,” the 63-year old bishop said.

He said he tried calling his vicar general but failed. He added he only hopes for the safety of the hostages.

“I learned the St. Mary’s church was burned at about midnight,” he added.

The bishop said he was at the outskirts of Marawi City when the attack took place.

In Moscow, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said he was told by President Duterte that he has already placed the entire island of Mindanao under Martial Law as of 10:00 P.M., Manila time.

He said the declaration was due to the existence of rebellion as guaranteed in the country’s 1987 Constitution and would remain valid for 60 days.

Still in Moscow, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said joint elements of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police were in the process of serving the warrant of arrest of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon at Barangay Basak Malutlut in Marawi City when there were met by gunfire reportedly from Hapilon’s group.

“Other groups of Maute and ISIS started to occupy some establishments in the city,” Lorenzana said. He added the group occupied the government’s Amai Pakpak Hospital, the city hall, jail and part of Mindanao State University compound.

He also confirmed the armed group burned St. Mary’s church, the city jail, Nonoy Aquino school and Dansalan College.

“Three soldiers, a policeman and two soldiers were killed while 12 others were wounded,” Lorenzana said.

Today, soldiers from AFP Western Mindanao Command will complement the Marawi-based troopers.

Chief Supt. Dionardo Carlos, Philippine National Police spokesman said they are working closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines “to regain public order and safety in Marawi City.

“Additional forces from the Maguindanao-based 6th Infantry Division and policemen from Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will reinforce the troopers involved in sporadic gunfight with the Maute group,” Carlos said in a statement.

He added the police puts “premium on the lives and safety of local residents.”

Sources at Malacanang Palace said President Duterte’s expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon.